I have a fear of ringing telephones. It goes back to my childhood when the phone would ring and my father would say, “nothing good is ever on the other end of that phone.” While the person on the other end of the phone was sometimes a friend or family member who was hoping to share something cheerful, it was also often bad news or simply an annoyance. I have no idea if lots of people cringe at the sound of a ringing phone, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I hear one.
Lately, it feels like a lot of people want me to be afraid of a lot of stuff. In recent days I have been asked to be afraid of transgendered people in bathrooms, immigrants, Sharia law, failing schools, people from the inner cities, the news media, and much more. The weird thing is that the people telling me to be afraid of all of this don’t seem to have encountered transgender people in their bathrooms, immigrants wishing to do them harm, schools that aren’t doing their best, anyone trying to impose Sharia law on them, people from the inner cities threatening their safety, or are being forced to read or watch news that they don’t care to engage with. But, they seem afraid of some or all of these things anyway, and they want me to be afraid as well.
Here is the difficult thing, I recognize that there are bad people in the world. I recognize that there are schools that are struggling to meet the needs of the kids who walk in their doors. I recognize that the news we all consume has different points of view. I can recognize all of that without being afraid of problems that don’t exist.
I have used public restrooms all of my life. I never gave it a second thought until a few years ago. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of public restrooms. When we would travel together and need to make use of public facilities you could see the fear come across her face. As a person who had never been afraid of such a thing, I was fascinated by her fear. As she described her state of mind, suddenly I became afraid as well. The thing is, the things she was afraid of were real. She was afraid of things that you could see, touch, and smell in those restrooms. Suddenly her fear became my fear and I now go into public restrooms with a whole new appreciation for the scary things that lurk in them. But, suddenly there are those who tell me to be afraid of public restrooms because of something that there is no evidence exists. While it is entirely possible I’ve shared a restroom with a transgendered person, not one of them has done me any harm. The only people I’ve ever been afraid of in a public restroom are the pale drunk guys next to me who have bad aim; that’s something to be afraid of. If someone wants to write a bill making it illegal for drunk guys to pee on my shoes, I’m in.
It’s hard to be afraid of immigrants when the immigrants I encounter are hard working, kind, and only hoping for a better life. I suspect that they are much like my immigrant ancestors who came to this country in order to achieve the American Dream. While there are surely immigrants who commit illegal acts in our country and should be deported, I also see the crime committed by American citizens a little too close to my home. The guy who shot two police officers a few blocks from my home wasn’t an immigrant; he was just a bad guy. What if we all just agreed to be afraid of the bad guys? As a matter of fact, let’s not so much be afraid of them as agree that we need to help them before they do bad things and punish them appropriately when they do bad things. That doesn’t have anything to do with where they are from or the color of their skin.
I have been told to be afraid of Sharia law in recent days. I wasn’t that familiar with Sharia law, so I studied a little bit about it (http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2016/07/19/asifa-quraishi-landes-5-myths-shariah-law). According to Muslim scholar Imam Suhaib Webb, the five things that Sharia law aims to preserve are: Life, learning, family, property, and honor. I’m not sure why I’m supposed to be afraid of that. In honesty, I’m more afraid of politicians who want to take my tax dollars and provide monetary support to religious schools. That’s a real thing that is happening.
There are real problems in our world. Too many people go to bed hungry and cold each night, too many people don’t have access to quality health care, too many people who aren’t able to go to college, there is too much violence, and there is too much hate. I wish I had answers to all of that, but I know the answer isn’t to waste our time trying to solve problems that don’t exist. Those who want us to be afraid of non-existent problems have an agenda; it’s not my agenda. Those who want to feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, make our schools the best in the world, and provide shelter to those in need have an agenda as well. We’re not paid protestors, we aren’t snowflakes, nor are we the enemy of the American people. We just want to address the real problems that we actually see.
You don’t have to be afraid of the phone ringing or someone peeing on your shoe, those are my fears. Just don’t expect me to be afraid of things that aren’t worthy of my fear.